Appalachian Media Archive's

The Last Laugh (1924)

Directed by
F.W. Murnau

Back in November, local media archivist Bradley Reeves blessed our “Noirvember” film series with a spectacular 16mm print of Out Of The Past, presented along with a handful of silent comedy shorts. We’d like to say that tons of people showed up, but those that did were treated to a celluloid experience special enough that we’re now making a series of it.

Presented in association with Reeves’s new Appalachian Media Archives venture, our Film On Film series of 16mm presentations kicks off with a sterling 16mm print of F.W. Murnau’s silent 1924 drama The Last Laugh. A prime example of Weimar Germany’s Kammerspielfilm (a bare, stage-derived genre focusing on psychological introspection rather than expressionism), The Last Laugh is perhaps most famous for functioning almost entirely without intertitles, relying instead on Emil Jannings’ gripping central performance.

More, from Roger Ebert’s Great Movies review: “The film would be famous just for its lack of titles, and for its lead performance by Emil Jannings, which is so effective that both Jannings and Murnau were offered Hollywood contracts and moved to America at the dawn of sound. But The Last Laugh is remarkable also for its moving camera. It is often described as the first film to make great use of a moving point of view. It isn’t, really; the silent historian Kevin Brownlow cites The Second-in-Command made 10 years earlier. But it is certainly the film that made the most spectacular early use of movement, with shots that track down an elevator and out through a hotel lobby, or seemingly move through the plate-glass window of a hotel manager’s office (influencing the famous shot in Citizen Kane that swoops down through the skylight of a nightclub).”

Proud of his position, responsibilities and uniform, a hotel doorman is shocked to find out that he has been demoted to washroom attendant., humiliated, the old man struggles to carry on with his life.

• Rated

Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Max Hiller